Battle For The Heartland: Understanding America’s Unrelenting Hostility Towards All Things Russian

By   /   April 13, 2017  /   47 Comments

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WHAT THE HELL’S GOING ON?! As events in the Middle East spiral out of control, and the prospect of a shooting war between the United States and Russia moves from possible to probable, that’s the question more and more people are asking.

WHAT THE HELL’S GOING ON?! As events in the Middle East spiral out of control, and the prospect of a shooting war between the United States and Russia moves from possible to probable, that’s the question more and more people are asking.

Part of the answer lies embedded in the “geostrategic” model of the world reproduced above. The area shaded in blue, designated “Rimland”, corresponds remarkably closely to the area which, since the end of World War II, the United States and its allies have expended vast quantities of blood and treasure to bring under their control. The area shaded in red (old habits die hard!) is known as the “Heartland”. It belongs to the Russian Federation.

Outside the thin blue line which from descends from the Arctic Circle, sweeps south past Europe and Africa, then east across the Indian Ocean, turning north through the Indonesian archipelago and then north again into the Western Pacific, lie North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and the island nations of the Pacific. Inside the thin blue line lies the greatest geostrategic prize of all – the “World-Island”. Whoever controls the World-Island, controls the world.

That, at least, was the contention of Sir Halford Mackinder, the nineteenth century British geographer and founder of what came to be known as “geopolitics”. Mackinder’s ideas would inspire imperialists the world over. They inspired Adolf Hitler and, following Germany’s defeat in 1945, captured the imaginations of the elite advisers to the new kid on the imperial block – the United States.

Mackinder summarised his “Heartland Theory” in the following oft-quoted formula:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island commands the world.

Russia – whether in the form of the Romanov Empire, the Soviet Union, or the Russian Federation – has always been the problem-child of geopolitics. Its location, at the heart of the World-Island, has, from the very beginning, strongly suggested that the struggle for global hegemony would eventually be won by the Russians. With the Heartland under its control, Russia (at least theoretically) can “pivot” west, into Europe; east, into China; and south, into India and Africa. That’s a hard hand to beat!

It was in order to forestall this geopolitically predetermined Russian victory, that the United States developed its post-1945 policy of “containment”. The Soviet domination of Eastern Europe (1945-1989) gave this policy a desperate urgency. A complex network of alliances was constructed, binding as many of the Rimland nations as possible to the task of keeping the Russians hemmed in on every side.

President Richard Nixon’s successful outreach to Communist China in the early 1970s represented a crucial geopolitical win for the United States, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union’s Eastern European “empire” in 1989, the Americans celebrated their hard-won release from Mackinder’s daunting spell. If Russia no longer controlled Eastern Europe, then it could not control the Heartland. And if it could not control the Heartland, then it could not control the world. The long-coveted role of global hegemon had been won by the United States.

To keep that role, however, the United States had to do two things: it had to keep its own position in the Rimland permanently strong; and Russia’s position in the Heartland permanently weak.

This was achieved by calving-off the constituent republics of the old Soviet Union (especially Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and advancing an expanded Nato as far as possible into Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, complementing this geographical dismemberment, was the break-neck deconstruction and sell-off of the Soviet Union’s economic assets and infrastructure. The all-too-brief flowering of liberal democracy which followed the collapse of Russian communism in 1991 was swiftly strangled by the poisonous weeds of a rapacious criminal kleptocracy. The fig-leaf president presiding over this gangster-capitalist nightmare, Boris Yeltsin, was a hopeless drunk, kept in power by a bevy of US-supplied election-fixers. (Oh yes, the Americans invented that particular game!)

The United States’ success in weakening the Heartland was, however, undermined by developments in the Rimland. China’s turn towards the US was not just diplomatic but economic. In the late-1970s, the Communist Party of China ditched Mao’s iron rice-bowl for an authoritarian variant of capitalism “with Chinese characteristics”. The phenomenal success of the Chinese communists’ idiosyncratic embrace of the market was paradoxical. Yes, it tied them to US capitalism – but in ways which strengthened its own economy at the long-term expense of America’s. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century China was snapping at the USA’s heels. Not only as an economic challenger, but also as a rapidly expanding military power.

The collapse of Soviet power impacted on the US in another way. In the years following World War II, many of the Arab states had adopted the Soviet model of national development and built up strong quasi-socialist and secular political movements to give it effect. But, for the Americans, driving Soviet influence out of the Muslim nations of the Rimland proved to be a double-edged sword. In Islam, American-led global capitalism met a force it could not suppress, whose ruthless use of asymmetric warfare tactics was to both derail and derange American policy in the Rimland.

As the United States embarked on its trillion-dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fast-declining Boris Yeltsin was succeeded by the former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin. An avid student of geopolitics, Putin was determined to rebuild Russia’s position in the Heartland. Keeping Ukraine out of the European Union and Nato was absolutely crucial to this project. He was also happy to take opportunistic advantage of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Muslim nations of the Rimland. Russia’s staunch support for the Assad regime in Syria and its outreach to the Iranians runs directly counter to US intentions in the Middle East.

The drumbeat of US hostility towards Putin’s Russia, which has been rising in both volume and tempo since the US-backed fascist takeover of Ukraine in January 2014, and Putin’s subsequent annexation of the Crimea, is driven by America’s determination to prevent the reconstitution of decisive Russian power in the Heartland, and to put an end to Putin’s increasingly disruptive impact on the United States’ position in the Rimland.

The movement of Nato troops to Russia’s borders with the Baltic states. The determination to separate the Assad regime from its Russian ally. The ceaseless calls for the imposition of economic sanctions on the Russian Federation. (Boris Johnson, take a bow!) All are proof that Halford Mackinder’s “Heartland Theory” continues to drive the greatest and most dangerous geopolitical game of all – the game to decide who will rule the world.

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47 Comments

  1. Historian pete says:

    A very perceptive analysis Chris which shows a badly needed context to the geopolitical struggle we are witnessing.Unfortunately it is about 50 IQ points above any kind of understanding displayed by Murray Mccully,Bill English, and their henchmen.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Well, allow me to assist in dumbing down geo politics if it isn’t already strupid.

      China however, it has a natural resource situation similar to Russia and the US: abundant, but not much in the way of “energy sources” other than coal, Chinas renweable situation is growing but is anaemically under wieght. It puts China in a position of either supporting energy exporters against the US or attempting to dominate them like the US is currently. It’s like having two opposing Rugby teams trying to score on a neutral try line. The basic objective and ball handling don’t really change, you just have to keep an eye on the other guys trying the same shit.

      My concern is that as the Chinese economy matures it will become more profitable for Chinese investors to dump their money into their own country instead of in New Zealand, shutting off that huge flow of cash which is currently not being put to intelligent use (it’s largely spent on increased consumption over seas, rather than investing in increasing domestic productivity and infrastructure overhauls).

      There is no way the US would be able to continue financing global energy dominance without some SERIOUS austerity in social spending and domestic consumption, and revolutionary productivity gains. In the case of austerity, if your people are forced to live shitty lives, without quality social programs or abundant material wealth, then what good is world domination? And this is the position the ANZUS treaty has placed us in.

  2. Gosman says:

    I believe the Baltic States have very valid reasons for turning towards NATO namely their takeover by the Soviet Union in 1939.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Stop twisting history.

      That was because of the Molotov / Ribbentrop Pact (Nazi–Soviet Pact).

      And as we all know the NAZI’S were Fascists.

      —————————————-

      ”The pact delineated the spheres of interest between the two powers, confirmed by the supplementary protocol of the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty amended after the joint invasion of Poland. It remained in force for nearly two years, until the German government of Adolf Hitler ended the pact by launching an attack on the Soviet positions in Eastern Poland during Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941.[2]

      The clauses of the Nazi-Soviet Pact provided a written guarantee of non-belligerence by each party towards the other, and a declared commitment that neither government would ally itself to, or aid, an enemy of the other party. In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included a secret protocol that divided territories of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania, into German and Soviet “spheres of influence”, anticipating “territorial and political rearrangements” of these countries. ”.

      Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact – Wikipedia
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov–Ribbentrop_Pact

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      On that one conclusion I must agree with you, Gosman.

    • reason says:

      I believe that the people of the Crimea who voted ( by about 90% ) not to be ruled by a facist ukraine junta … who gained power by a u.s.a backed violent coup ….should not have a war ( genocide* ) waged against them.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9bJUshEJMs

      We ( NZ ) should not be supporting these Ukraine nazis …. as we are doing by imposing sanctions against the victims.

      Our farmers are paying for the sanction weapons … a collective form of punishment used against civilians.

      * A war against civilians qualifies as genocide

      True story of Ukraine Civil War (from the people of Donbass). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-Jme77Dfc4

  3. Sam Sam says:

    In peace time any smuck could lock down multiple continents (continent+, or continant++) to do that would take alot more petro chemicals than we’ve got right now unless yu want to buy Suadi ARAMCO and say fuck you to the rest of world oil cunsumers we are going to war instead. Which I’m not discouting that theory at all.

  4. Francesca says:

    Thanks Chris , I was not aware of that earlier doctrine, which seems to have been enlarged upon by the likes of Brzezinski, a democrat adviser to Jimmy Carter, who recommended the weakening and intimidation of Russia by destabilising the border regions.He also admitted to advising and funding the Taliban opponents of the pro Soviet government in Kabul ,Afghanistan some 6 months previous to the Soviet entry to support that government
    He said something to the tune of”Mr President , I have delivered to the Soviets their Vietnam”
    Well guess who’ still in the quagmire there now?
    Incidentally, google images of Afghanistan in the pro Soviet years show women in short skirts attending universities and participating in political life
    After the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US was exultant at being the sole superpower.They could have chosen at this moment”the end of history”to lead by example, renounce military domination and enter in to a new co operative phase
    Instead the Wolfowitz doctrine was quickly established
    This advocates a policy of unilateralism and pre emptive military action to suppress any rising power that might challenge US hegemony
    “Our first objective is to prevent the re emergence of a new rival , either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere”
    Stuck in the mindset of unipolarity, while decaying from within, the US is a dangerous beast
    Theres a great cartoon I’ve seen somewhere
    Uncle Sam is lying on the psychiatrists couch
    “I don’t know Doc, “he says”I’ve got the biggest bombs,the greatest wealth, I spend more on weapons than the next 7 countries, but still I feel insecure”
    “Ah” says the shrink”That’s what we call the military industrial complex”

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    Interesting information , Chris.

    But I still reckon that USA missile blast in Syria was a staged event. Too many stood to benefit.

    We had Trump having the heat put on him about being too cozy with Putin and Russian interference in USA elections, we had Trump entertaining the Chinese President at the same hours the of the launch , Trump using North Korea as a way to get at Chinese expansion in the South China sea,… one of the USA ‘s largest energy suppliers being Saudi Arabia , Saudi Arabia being Sunni – like ISIS – and supplying them with arms against Syria with Syria and Iran both having Shiite majorities or near too,..

    Perhaps it is part of a global plan to regain control of the heartland once more by the USA…perhaps this is what its all about..

    • Jack Ramaka says:

      Interesting when he was talking to the Chinese Premier he mentioned the missile attack on Iraq?

  6. CLEANGREEN says:

    LETS CLARIFY WHEN DID THE RUSSIAN SLAVIC TRIBES DID FIRST SETTLE IN THE “HOMELAND.”

    “Slavic tribes began to inhabit the northern and central parts of the East-European Plain in the 1000 BC”

    “The Slavic tribes were divided into three branches – southern, western and eastern. The eastern Slavs are the ancestors of the modern Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians”

    HOW COULD THEY NOT BE PART OF THE UKRANE SINCE THEY WERE UKRANIANS THEN?

    SO THEY HAVE been around since the year dot!!!!!

    Who did they invade then during AD?

    http://www.advantour.com/russia/history/early-slavs-tribes.htm

    Ancient Slavic Tribes

    Russian History – Ancient Slavic Tribes

    The Russian’s statehood history starts from the time when numerous Slavic tribes began to inhabit the northern and central parts of the East-European Plain in the 1000 BC. They were settled and lived off hunting, fishing and farming. The ones living in the steppe were engaged in cattle-breeding.

    The settling of Slavic tribes took place in the sixth through eighth centuries. The tribes moved into three basic directions; southern – Balkan Peninsula; western – between the Oder and the Elba; eastern and northern – East European Plane. As a result the Slavic tribes were divided into three branches – southern, western and eastern. The eastern Slavs are the ancestors of the modern Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. Ancient Slavs were pagans. They had the Pantheon (of Gods), they believed in evil and kind spirits, each of which personified various natural powers: Yarilo – the God of the Sun and Perun – the God of Thunder and Lightning, war and weapons.

    As the eastern Slavs were settling the East European Plane their primitive social structure started to degrade. Tribal unions began to appear; later became the basis of a future statehood.

  7. Mike in Auckland says:

    “Part of the answer lies embedded in the “geostrategic” model of the world reproduced above. The area shaded in blue, designated “Rimland”, corresponds remarkably closely to the area which, since the end of World War II, the United States and its allies have expended vast quantities of blood and treasure to bring under their control. The area shaded in red (old habits die hard!) is known as the “Heartland”. It belongs to the Russian Federation.”

    FFS, Mr Trotter, I have never seen such an idiotic hypothetical geographic map of supposed aspired to spheres of interest, you should know better, but you are again playing with cliches and poorly informed people’s emotions.

    Siberia was colonised by Russia, and local native populations either subdued, disowned or so marginalised, they pose no threats. Similar to how the US Americans beat down, killed and marginalised the native American Indians.

    The US was quite self content for most the times in its history, that is to focus on what happens in North America and directly off its shores. The imperial adventures were limited to places like the Philippines and a few other island places, later in exerting influence in much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Only WW2 and its bloodied end result led the US to finally become a global imperial power, while Russia, also dominating the USSR, had already been an imperial power for centuries.

    Of course the Russians feel “humiliated” by the collapse of the USSR, as it brought pain and suffering, and loss of influence. But the same kind of think happened to post WW1 Germany, which led to authoritarianism and nationalism, after a brief stint of fragile ‘democracy’.

    That is where I see the Russian Federation, where the bulk of the population dream of being members of a superpower, a powerful nation again. Although Putin is by no means a ‘Hitler’, he is using some similar methods to control his people and nation, using misinformation, propaganda and manipulation 24/7, in at times a subtle way, at other times more forceful way.

    Ukraine was not about to join NATO, but the Baltic States did, for good enough reasons, as they feared the Russian Bear. Add the Caucasus Region, and you have more people there, who never trusted the Russians, given history’s record and how they suffered at the hand of Russian imperialism.

    Ukrainians, that is those who are mostly not Russian ethnic citizens, they also suffered under the Russian domination, to use the fact that there are some fascists in Ukraine, to declare the country a fascist kind of construct facilitated by the US is riduculous to the extreme. China in that ‘Rimland’ is also far from being subservient to the US, and India and some other countries in your blue area, they have been critical of and distant to US influence since WW2 ended, or since they gained independence.

    I would not excuse the US from the mistakes and from the violations it is responsible for, but portraying the situation between them and the Russian Federation and its government and authoritarian President, this does not do us any favours.

    Get back to historic facts, perhaps, or is age showing?

    • Francesca says:

      Well,I think Chris is on the right track
      Mackinder, the founder of the term geopolitics, had a fan by the name of Ziggy Brzezinski, national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, and top foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama
      Brzezinzki wrote the influential book
      The Grand Chessboard”
      A few quotes “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot.Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire”
      Ukraine was to be an important part of Putins Eurasian economic union, and a free trade area from” Lisbon to Vladiovostok ” successfully scuppered by the coup.
      “However if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people,and major resources as well as access to the Black sea, Russia automatically regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia”

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Hah, trouble is MOST Ukrainians would not want to be part of the Russian Federation, and be second class ‘citizens’ there. They may ethnically and culturally be very similar people, and have shared periods in history.

        But like in much of Europe, we have populations of particular ethnicities with their cultures, languages, religions overlapping borders of existing states, i.e. live as minorities in one or the other state.

        That has given cause for tensions, disputes and wars over centuries, just look at the history of Europe.

        The only way to agree on things is by people being allowed their democratic rights as voters, and perhaps as minorities to fight for self determination. To do so by force, that is often only leading to violent excesses, look at Northern Ireland as one example.

        The Basque nationalists that once took up arms in Northern Spain have just decided to surrender their remaining weapons, as they consider there is no point in carrying on fighting that way.

        One nation intervening into another independent nations’ affairs, i.e. invading, or interfering in inappropriate ways, that leads to other more serious issues.

        Thus only peaceful efforts should be pursued, and if it cannot be done in agreement between parties involved, then the UN should perhaps be consulted (see Palestine).

        What happened in Crimea is one thing, what did in the past happen with the Baltic States, which were once independent, and which regained independence after the collapse of the USSR, that is quite another story.

        Re MacKinder, I consider his thinking or theories as being part of the very problem we have, when it comes to global issues and strategies.

        Read up on the history of Ukraine, and see how complex the matter is, with Crimea, Ukraine itself, and with the tensions between Russian Federation and the Ukrainian Republic. There is no easy solution. It is hardly a case of the US exerting undue pressure there, they are just being opportunistic, same as they have been elsewhere most the time.

        • Hah, trouble is MOST Ukrainians would not want to be part of the Russian Federation, and be second class ‘citizens’ there. They may ethnically and culturally be very similar people, and have shared periods in history.

          Indeed, Mike. One thing that probably most (if not all) Europeans – especially from the Slavic east – despise is Anglos telling us what our culture is/isn’t, and who we should be a “part of”. It’s a none-too-subtle form of anglo-saxon cultural chauvinism when Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians, etc, hear someone from one of the “Five Eyes”/Oceania empire telling us how to live.

          I wonder how New Zealanders would feel if a Russian or American said that this country should join the Australian Federation because, hey, culturally New Zealand and Australia are “so similar”. I daresay that would not be well received by either New Zealanders or Australians.

          • Francesca says:

            another reason the Russian federation would not welcome Ukraine is because Ukraine has opened up to Monsanto(one of the consequences of accepting IMF loans is the dismantling of Ukrainian laws concerning land ownership and the weakening of environmental protections to facilitate foreign investment)
            Russia has kicked out Monsanto and GMO, in human and animal feed.
            Unfortunately the time when Ukraine could play off The EU against Russia and vice versa ceased when the EU insisted that Ukraine had to choose between Russia or the EU
            When Yanukovich chose the Russian offer it was because his finance analysts told him accepting the EU offer would cost Ukraine $60 billion in lost trade(and gas discounts)Yanukovich took this back to the EU and said, can you help me here?
            They said no

        • Mike in Auckland says:

          A link with much info, that was meant to go with my earlier comment:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine

        • Francesca says:

          You’re right.At least those in western Ukraine.Theres always been a schism in Ukraine, about 50/50 between the west and the south and east.Pretty much the dividing line is the Dnieper river
          I doubt most Russians would want it either, more land than a country which has the biggest land mass in the world needs, bankrupt economically, and arguably as much corruption as they are currently contending with
          I’m sorry, I think the US has used covert means many many times to further their imperialist ambitions.
          Opportunism doesn’t explain the ousting of Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile,Guatemala, regime change in Iraq and Libya., the various colour revolutions in Eastern Europe
          A little more intentional than opportunistic

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      ‘The US was quite self content for most the times in its history, that is to focus on what happens in North America and directly off its shores’

      This statement is simply not true.

      ‘America has invaded 70 countries since its 4th of July Independence Day in 1776. American imperialism has made a major contribution to the 1.3 billion global avoidable deaths in the period 1950-2005. The Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist One Percenters can be seen as the New Nazis. The World, including ordinary Americans  (1 million of whom die preventably each year) [10],   must shake off the shackles of endless American One Percenter warmongering, imperialism and mendacity.’

      http://www.countercurrents.org/polya050713.htm

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Oh, come on:

        “America has invaded 70 countries since its 4th of July Independence Day in 1776”

        Your source is somewhat BS, it even admits that of those supposedly “70 countries” the following is alleged to have happened:

        “The US has invaded about 70 countries since its inception and has invaded a total of about 50 countries since 1945”.

        If you read my comment more carefully, I concede that since the 2nd WW the US has taken on a different approach and acted more like an imperialist country.

        I wrote:

        “Only WW2 and its bloodied end result led the US to finally become a global imperial power, while Russia, also dominating the USSR, had already been an imperial power for centuries.”

        But as the writer on ‘Countercurrents’ counts every breach of whatever treaty with the American Indian nations as an ‘invasion’, then you may get such a high number of “invasions”.

        Going by that, we must then also consider that New Zealand is an ‘occupied nation’, similar as Palestine is occupied by Zionists. Give back full autonomy and authority to the Maori people, and force all others to re-apply for a resident visa or citizenship then. The Treaty, as it is being interpreted, can surely only have been a con job or fraud.

  8. Geopolitics…

    Fascinatingly dirty stuff.

    But seriously. A lot more seriously, the continual drum beat towards confrontation and the escalating probability that *a* U.S.-Russia military confrontation is now quite plausible raises the prospect of something else – which might be an event on its own, or another step towards the east vs west confrontation.

    I am thinking of the potential for an international incident that is that is serious enough to make the world just put everything on pause for anything from couple of days to a couple of weeks. It might be Russian or American forces accidentally firing at each other without permission from their respective commanders.

    As for the seriousness. It would be serious enough to cause protests, urgent debates, some very grim headlines. People will talk about it with the sort of urgency that seems to follow events like earthquakes – a sort of shock that it happened; horror upon realizing the scale of the problem. It will be enough to briefly rock industries as diverse as tourism and the stock markets.

    I can just see such an event happening and there being a noticeable chill or fear as a result.

  9. Stuart Munro says:

    Non-Russian speakers tend to underate Yeltsin, he wasn’t a hopeless drunk, though he certainly sold out the democracy movements, he was Moscow intelligentsia and exceptionally well spoken. It was Gorbachev who sounded like a hick from the rural Primorye, but Gorbachov had made reforms work there. Yeltsin was more like Geoffrey Palmer – admired for academic prowess, but laid waste to his country.

  10. remo says:

    Thanks for acknowledging Ukraine as a CIA coup. That fact alone argues Putins actions are actually ‘re’action -reactive- to the US/NATO alliance with fascist Ukraine; so that the ‘annexation’ of Crimea, was actually plebiscite.
    I have to point out the absence of 911 casus belli in the overall conversation. This leaves a big hole centre stage. The ‘Wests’ alliance with fascist Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, with whatever is left of democracy in Turkey (allowing open-door terrorist traffic along the border with Syria,) and key parts played by the UN designated arpartheid state of Israel, all flow through ground zero.
    For this USAMO ‘deepstate’ to get its boots on the ground to ‘destabilise’ the Middle East (as Spicer has just confirmed) took 911.
    To exercise the PNAC Pentagon agenda as exposed by Wesley Clark (7 countries in 5 years) and its ‘unipolar full spectrum dominance,’ required use of Islam as enemy, deployment of mercenary jihad as proxy, and revenge psychology on US population to allow for it took the outrage of 911.
    Every independent study of the building behaviour since, has confirmed demolition.
    This creates a great quandry. Because, being the sophisticated demolition the architects and engineers insist it was, demands the entire conversation enters a very different room – Like it or not,
    that is the elephant in it.

  11. Mike in Auckland says:

    “This was achieved by calving-off the constituent republics of the old Soviet Union (especially Ukraine and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and advancing an expanded Nato as far as possible into Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, complementing this geographical dismemberment, was the break-neck deconstruction and sell-off of the Soviet Union’s economic assets and infrastructure.”

    What a one sided view of developments this is, I cannot believe it.

    Those republic were not ‘calved off’, they chose independence, and could not get it quick enough, as their populations had in high numbers suffered under the Russian dominated USSR, and while they moved on, the rest of the USSR collapsed.

    Of course the US and NATO later benefited from this collapse, but they hardly did scheme to get all this happen.

    Eastern European countries and peoples were mostly glad to tear down the Iron Curtain, as they were mere vassal states of the former USSR, which again was largely controlled by Russia and its people, that is the members of the former Communist Party there.

  12. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Mostly on track there Chris.

    However, ‘Putin’s subsequent annexation of the Crimea’ is not correct at all. Crimea has been Russian and Russian speaking almost continuously since Catherine the Great’s time. Putin did no annex Crimea: the people of Crimea got thoroughly sick of the American-installed fascists in Kiev, and, after successfully breaking away from the American-installed fascist in Kiev, voted by an overwhelming majority to join the Russian Federation.

    A very important point not highlighted is that the Gorbachev-Reagan deal of the 1980s allowed for the dismemberment of the Warsaw Pact on the basis that buffer states would be maintained and that there would be no expansion of NATO eastwards -which the Americans swelched on, of course, as is the American way of doing almost everything.

    Against the background of deceit and manipulation, fuckwit New Zealanders with zero historical knowledge and zero integrity fly American flags and show solidarity with the worse rogue nation on the planet.

  13. “The fig-leaf president presiding over this gangster-capitalist nightmare, Boris Yeltsin, was a hopeless drunk, kept in power by a bevy of US-supplied election-fixers. (Oh yes, the Americans invented that particular game!)”

    Other than maybe Mark Ames, F W Engdahl, or Peter Hitchens, there really aren’t many people who still write about this aspect of 1990s Russia. Nice article, it’s good to see TDB keeping it real among all this historically ill-informed hysteria going on around the world.

    • Sam Sam says:

      You know Forbes has finaly confirmed Putin as worlds most powerful.

      On so many metrics commercial merica has fallen behind and I’m not sure they this dozy beast understands either.

      Every one suffers from lack of understanding about geometry so for me the map in the OP is excellent on par with its historical accuracy.

      If a proper map was shown on commercial media the producers would have apoplexy. Some one needs to show them

  14. Mike in Auckland says:

    Further to my earlier, critical comments on this post:

    Wikipedia provides info on ‘Sir Halford MacKinder’, and his theories:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halford_Mackinder

    See under his ‘career’:
    “His next major work, Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction, appeared in 1919.[14] It presented his theory of the Heartland and made a case for fully taking into account geopolitical factors at the Paris Peace conference and contrasted (geographical) reality with Woodrow Wilson’s idealism. The book’s most famous quote was: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.”[15] This message was composed to convince the world statesmen at the Paris Peace conference of the crucial importance of Eastern Europe as the strategic route to the Heartland was interpreted as requiring a strip of buffer state to separate Germany and Russia. These were created by the peace negotiators but proved to be ineffective bulwarks in 1939 (although this may be seen as a failure of other, later statesmen during the interbellum). The principal concern of his work was to warn of the possibility of another major war (a warning also given by economist John Maynard Keynes).

    Mackinder was anti-Bolshevik, and as British High Commissioner in Southern Russia in late 1919 and early 1920, he stressed the need for Britain to continue her support to the White Russian forces, which he attempted to unite.[16]”

    The man was living in a very different time, grew up in the British Empire’s dark colonial times, where there was still only limited technological capability. It was also the time where Britain was ‘The Empire’, ruling much of the world without needing the supposed ‘Heartland’, but fearing perhaps, that is its elite, that being ocean surrounded and bound, it may have built an empire lacking significant land masses in one continent.

    It seems completely irrelevant today, and in my view was even not that relevant in his days, as Russia occupied large land masses in Northern and Central Asia, that were hardly fertile, and not that hospitable for human settlement (cold Siberia, the deserts of Central Asia, only parts of Europe, west of the Urals being fertile for growing crops and offering homes and cities for humans).

    What relevance has such a theory, when there have been ancient empires in various continents, NOT based in the ‘Heartland’, including the lands occupied by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Indus Culture, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Zimbabweans, the Khmer and so forth?

    It is stuff thought out in an imperialist, aristocrat, privileged Brit who chose to study geography and so forth, which is not worth the paper written on in the days of inter continental missiles, nuclear bombs, satellites, global trade networks and so forth.

  15. David Stone says:

    Hi Chris
    Your opening question is indeed the puzzle of our time.
    However the historical background you then cover in order to offer an answer ,I think differs from the present in that those planning and implementing the “hell that was going on”then, were in a position to answer that question as it applied to their time.
    In the present however it would seem that the trio principally responsible for implementing and explaining the ‘hell that’s going on ” now, namely Sean Spicer,Nicky Haley and Rex Tillerson, are in no better position to answer it than Kermit the frog.
    That leaves only one person possibly able to answer; and there seem to be three options there. (1) he is playing a very cunning secretive hand.
    (2) his precious jewels are firmly in the grasp of the nameless faceless powers that be or
    (3) he is the least qualified to answer of all.
    I had been holding out for the manifestation of his pacifist rhetoric till recently, against the flow of opinion, but I have to now concede the last seems the most probable.
    The voters of America must have mistaken The White House for a very high end infirmary.
    But perhaps that’s what it has always been.
    D J S

  16. Pat O'Dea says:

    What your top down analysis lacks Chris, is the people as the active agency of history, around which the ruling imperial elites often have to fit their plans and schemes.

    The liberation of the Eastern European states (including East Germany) from the USSR was not a result of successful US policies or programs but of the actions of the people themselves.

    The same with events in Syria, what the elites in Russia and the US, (and indeed the elite rulers in Syria itself), fear, more than anything else, is popular revolt from below against their carving up of and exploitation of the world. Each power in their own brutal way, sometimes in concert with each other, and sometimes in opposition to each other, have tried to take advantage of the popular revolt to advance their own imperial objectives. They have done this with the only currency they know, massive violence launched on the civilian population by their various militaries, mostly by aerial bombardment of civilian centres, where they perceive that the people may be acting against their particular imperial interest

  17. Andrew says:

    Still living the dream eh Chris?

    Russia is a broken reed.

    It has a kleptomaniac thug for a president. A drunk and addicted population with low fertility rate and a steadily declining population. With the oil price in the $50’s it is bleeding money and can barely sustain itself.

    Outside of minerals it has nothing much worth selling and its manufacturing base is almost non-existent.

    From a geographic perspective the only natural superpower is the USA:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/24/why-the-u-s-remains-the-worlds-unchallenged-superpower/#492ba6935b6e

    By comparison, Russians are the paranoid defenders of a frozen wasteland. They are surrounded on all sides by ethnic opponents and have no defendable borders.

    They have no uncontested access to the main shipping routes and this is what the war in Syria is all about in reality: Russia maintaining the Mediterranean port of Tartus so it’s Black Sea Fleet aren’t forced to pass the Dardanelles to resupply.

    It seems their desperation is so great they’ll give the tyrant Assad nerve gas to massacre his own citizens.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Are you illiterate? No one here is actually defending Putins Russia, equally no one on this message baord is defending commercial merica.

      Where is US 7th fleet area of influence?

    • Andrew, it was neo-cons like you who surmised that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 would be successful and Western soldiers greeted as liberators, and a new democratic Iraq would rise.

      Well, the US soldiers were greeted by some as “liberators”, for a while.

      Fourteen years later, the region is a quagmire of ethnic, religious, political, conflict.

      The only thing missing (Jeezus!!) is some lunatic detonating an atomic bomb somewhere.

      Which goes to show that preconceived, simplistic, prejudices and naive wishful thinking like yours is a dangerous mix when involved in international affairs.

      • Andrew says:

        Nice straw man Frank! 🙂

        So you’re in favour of nerve gassing civilians? Just answer yes or no.

        Russia’s economy is on life support as long as the price petrol remains stagnant. As all students of history know, financial problems at home lead to civil unrest. Protests in Moscow are indicative of the Russian people’s concern for the future.

        So to maintain control, Putin adopts a childish tough-guy image. Of course it looks silly to us – all those pathetic bare chested PR shots on horse back, but it’s indicative of his terminal ‘small dick syndrome’.

        • Sam Sam says:

          Are you ducking bro?

        • CLEANGREEN says:

          IMPERIALIST ANDREW WE SEE AGAIN AND AGAIN SO BORING.

        • Sally's Husband says:

          Andrew, Russia’s economy is only on “life support” because of a US-inspired economic blockade. It’s the same kind of tactics that undermined the Iranian and Cuban economies. And then ignorant right-wing pricks like you blame the victim for those economic sanctions for their economy being on “life support”?? Give us a break, we’re not stupid. We happen to know what is going on around us.

        • Samwise says:

          Actually, Andrew, I think Frank has made some good points. It’s you that seems to be ducking and weaving!

    • reason says:

      Head choppers would use nerve gas when they are losing …. so they get more help than the usual weapons the u.s.a and others have supplied them with …. they get the u.s airforce …. again ( Libya )

      * The US developed a back channel of weapons-smuggling to the Syrian rebels, known as the rat line, in cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, using the “liberated” arsenals from Libya following the west’s ousting of Gaddafi.

      * Despite US claims, the White House knew that the Syrian rebels had developed chemical weapons production facilities. UN investigators thought the Syrian opposition were the most likely culprits behind earlier chemical weapons attacks, in April and May 2013.

      The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell.

      http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38149.htm

  18. Historian pete says:

    So, what is the next exciting event we can look forward to from the U.S Empire State Terrorist Fourth Reich? There are rumours abroad that the next U.S attack on Syria will be a response to a barrel bomb attack by Assad on his own people.What is this ghastly weapon, this great crime against Humanity?Barrel bombs are being used by Syrian Govt. forces, though on a pretty small scale.They are an improvised weapon made by packing conventional explosives in a beer barrel that is then dropped by helicopter.They are simply an amateur version of a conventional weapon and they are far less effective -meaning devastating- than the professionally made munitions the U.K. and U.S. are dropping on Syria or supplying to the Saudis to kill tens of thousands in Yemen.They are the kind of thing that you use when you find it difficult to get professionally made weapons,much like the the home made rockets and stone throwing in Gaza.They have been seized upon by the U.S propaganda machine and made out to be a ghastly weapon .The irony is that history teaches us that the U.S. was quite fond of dropping what it calls barrel bombs onto Vietnamese civilians.Also,more recently the U.S. has sent Saudi thousands of cluster bombs-also an indiscriminate civilian killing device to use on Yemenis.Smart bombs or dumb bombs,Boeing bombs or barrel bombs or drone bombs ,the victims are just dead!Or maybe the latest victim of a U.S Hegemonic Empire drone attack may think in an expiring moment-” At least I wasn’t killed by a Barrel Bomb!!”

  19. But, for the Americans, driving Soviet influence out of the Muslim nations of the Rimland proved to be a double-edged sword. In Islam, American-led global capitalism met a force it could not suppress, whose ruthless use of asymmetric warfare tactics was to both derail and derange American policy in the Rimland.

    In the early 90s (1991? 1992?), as the Soviet system collapsed, there was a newspaper article in the Evening Post or Dominion (before they amalgamated and lost it’s relevance with the rise of ‘soft news’), that was written by a strategic analyst who predicted that with the demise of Soviet-style “socialism”, that the political vacuum would lead to a replacement with ethnic and religious jostling for supremacy.

    The writer (I forget his name, but not the thrust of his article’s premise) predicted that growing conflict, clothed in religious ideology, would replace conflict, that had previously been framed in an East/West, Socialist/Capitalist context.

    Whoever this person was, he should be buying Lotto tickets at every opportunity. He predicted the following two decades with eerie accuracy.

  20. Steve Abel says:

    Interesting analysis. At least one apparent glaring contradiction in the geopolitical map as it stands since 1945 at least:
    1) The most militarily and economically powerful and culturally influential nation in the world is not actually within the “world island” – namely USA.